Saturday, September 18, 2010

A fish story: "The customer that got away"

Bubba and Snooky will NOT be living in a goldfish tank from Jack's Aquarium & Pets store, located on Wilmington Pike in Dayton. I'm sure one of their clerks had the best intention, but really missed the boat when it came to satisfying this customer.
Here's the fish story. My daughter's high school biology class experiment, temperature affect on organism behavior (very harmless) this past week, ended with the teacher asking students if they wanted to bring home a goldfish before they would be "released" to meet another fate. With a written note of consent (required by the teacher), plus one of those cheap plastic goldfish containers lying around the house for the past 15 years, my daughter brought home two new family members.
So Saturday morning, I went on a quest to buy a tank so that Bubba and Snooky could have a permanent, comfortable home at least for the next 5 years. My thought was a 2 gallon tank, nothing fancy, but knew they should have some type of aeration. We already have a 15+ year old goldfish, so I consider myself fairly well informed about managing goldfish survival.
I started my errand at the Complete PETMART, close to my home. Open at 9:00 am, the clerk was nice and very helpful, but the store did not carry much of a product line for customers who have fish for pets. I asked the clerk where he would recommend I get a tank and support items, and he suggested Jack's Aquarium. The store is a little farther out, but Bubba and Snooky weren't looking the best for wear after swimming in the temporary vessel for more than 24 hours.
First problem – when I arrived, Jack's wasn't open, and wouldn't for another 45 minutes, until 10:00 am.  Maybe they don't think customers get up for Saturday morning errands. Instead of returning home, I killed time grocery shopping at a close-by store. Jack's was the recommended place to go for fish supplies, so I arrived back at the store just after their opening time.
"To attract and retain customers, effective organizations need to focus on determining and then providing what their customers want and value." (page 92)  I wasn't the only customer on the outside looking in before their posted opening time on Saturday.  My first reaction was that Jack's wasn't worried about being better than their competitor by making this store location available at the same time as their competitor. "Companies that want to retain their customers must continually strive to find ways to delight their customers." (page 94)  Jack's missed the boat. I would have been delighted to have been able to go into the store after 9:00 am just like the Complete PETMART store where I was delighted that there was one clerk on hand to help, even though they didn't carry products that would help out Bubba and Snooky.
Let's continue the fish story. . .
Since I had not previously shopped at Jack's Aquarium, I asked if a sales clerk could help me after looking around the store for a few minutes. I explained the situation; that I was looking for a 1 to 2 gallon tank, big enough I thought for 2 goldfish that are less than ½ inch long, at this point. I also needed an aeration unit. Knowing that these fish could live for a very long time, I told them my daughter would "super-size" the tank in about five years, but for now, I needed nothing large or fancy.
Unfortunately, the store clerk wasn't "listening" and promptly told me that this wasn't acceptable. First, I needed at least a 10 gallon tank, that goldfish could live to be 100 years old, and that I had probably stunted the growth of our current fish that was swimming in a 1 gallon tank. She also informed me that if I purchased the 1.5 gallon tank I was considering, that she would have to ask me to bring the goldfish to her store, she would take them off my hands and exchange them with 2 fish that I would be capable to care for in a 1.5 gallon tank (in other words, I was not competent for goldfish care).
Needless to say, I didn't appreciate being told that I didn't know how to take care of goldfish, and in the tone that the message was delivered. Since she obviously did not want to sell a tank smaller than 10 gallons, I left.
How do customers define value? "The organization itself may be evaluated based on its credibility and reputation for responsiveness to customers, employee competence, ability to communicate, and courtesy." (page 95) Jack's Aquarium missed the boat to meet a requirement for an effective organization as described in Chapter 4 of the text we are using in class, Quality Management. They don't appear to realize that the value of my transaction will determine whether I will buy from them the next time, or that I might tell other consumers about my experience. I am sure that this retail organization has not informed their clerks that "consumers have extraordinarily high standards for customer service. Companies that want to retain customers must continually strive to find ways to delight their customers." (page 94)
Simply listening to what I was trying to do now, and then helping me determine how to move to in the future, would have delighted me. The clerk lost an opportunity to satisfy my current need, and to offer options in a respectful manner, so. . . Jack's Aquarium lost a customer for life.
Not wanting to purchase any aquarium or fish supplies from Jacks, I went home, put away the groceries (melting ice cream since I had to grocery shopped before Jack's opened), I set off to find a 1 to 2 gallon tank at the nearby "big-box store". I found not only a 1.5 tank similar to one that was at Jacks for $10 less, but also purchased other items for Bubba and Snooky to feel more comfortable in their new home. What I spent today on this single purchase at the other store might not seem like much, but had my experience at Jack's Aquarium been completely different, I would have been a regular customer for future needs for other pet items in their store (we have a dog, cat and the 15+ year gold fish). Even more, I would have been able to recommend this store to my friends, other pet owners. Not anymore.
This is one fish story where the customer got away.

By Sandy Feola

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